Memphis Greyhound Terminal at 6:00 a.m.,
bodies litter the worn
tile floor like victims on a battlefield--
Americans on their way to minimum wage jobs picking peaches
Georgia and South Carolina. Children lay across mothers' laps
suckle from dry wrinkled breasts while mothers stare off into the
between terminal walls, perhaps dreaming of pinadas or
soft guitar melodies and flowing skirts.
Or maybe they dream of
houses with running water and refrigerators like they see on the
televisions of the gringo casas they have cleaned. The men lay with
their bodies curled
protectively around their families. Some
snore loudly. Those who are awake walk zombie-like
terminal, stepping over sprawled bodies, dragging battered luggage--no
destination in mind. Others hold their places in lines
that do not move. An unenthusiastic
announcer blares out a
garbled list of destinations over the hubbub of sleepy chatter,
roar of bus engines and the pistol-like explosions of air brakes. A
few souls exit
through glass and aluminum doors and disappear in
the foggy Memphis morning.
Memphis Greyhound Bus Station at 6:00 a.m.,
the restrooms are
crowded and smell of piss and shit. A line of sleepy-eyed old men
toward the stalls. One old man, face lost in a sea of
wrinkles and pockmarks,
says something in Mexican to the patron
of the stall before him. In any language, it is a
for haste. Another line, before the rusty urinals, moves faster. The
younger; the kidneys empty fast. Someone in the stalls
explodes and utters a deep sigh of relief.
The stench of decay
and shit attacks the room. "God damn, Viejo," A young man
shakes his dick vigorously. "What the fuck
crawled up inside you and died?" Someone laughs.
man who waits in line curses twice, bends over, and shit slowly runs
down his leg,
staining his khaki's wet. He falls sitting in it,
tears of frustration and anger staining his cheek.
Greyhound bus tires whistle on the interstate and drones along with
the excited chatter
of the young ones. There is hope in their
talk of work, of money, of security.
The destination looms ahead
like a giant peach, soft, sweet, ripe, ready for eating.
eyes shine; the mouths water. The mothers stare out the bus window
at the countryside whisking them farther and farther away from
and wonder what this destination will bring:
another strange culture to learn and assimilate into:
hardships: more poverty. But buried deep within them hope seeps into
breasts until they see what all mothers see: a
roof, a floor, a home for their families..
They offer this to the
children like sweet milk. The fathers sit quietly and listen to the
tick away underneath them. They fix their dark eyes ahead
and do not wonder.
What will be will be. The commitment has been
made long ago; the destination set.
Greyhound bus trip holds no fascination for the old men.
know that this destination is no different than the others: Los
Albuquerque, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona;
Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia.
They are all just garbled
destinations uttered by an unenthusiastic gringo station manager
somewhere. Whether they fill baskets with peaches or peppers or the
grapes of California,
they are only lining the pockets of the
gringo owners. There is only one destination for old men
them and it is measured in bowel movements.
Greyhound bus stops at the destination, it shoots out an explosion
like an old man with too much beans on his stomach. The children
and the young climb out first,
chattering loudly about the smell
of peaches in the humid Carolina air. They swarm around the
Greyhound station like ants on a rotten peach. The mothers are next,
cautious, clutching the infants to their
chests. The fathers follow and point out the rows of peach
in the distance. The old men roll cigarettes and find the restrooms.
If there was hope,
it is dashed when they are loaded into the
late-model Ford Econoline van
and driven along a dusty road to a
concentration of broken down shacks and shiny new chain
fence in the middle of a peach orchard. The mothers clean out the
shacks making homes
for their families until the next
destination. They dream of pinadas, guitar melodies, and flowing
as they work. The children explore the compound and the fathers start
of gathering peaches. The old men sit on the front
porch, smoke roll-your-owns
and wait for their next bowel
movement. They have been here before.